While the rest of the country’s major ports spent the decade leveraging private capital into gleaming new port facilities and expanded economic activity for their states, South Carolina chose to cling to an outdated “total government control” model that cost us billions of dollars in capital investment and thousands of new jobs.
Not surprisingly, that approach didn’t work.
The Port of Charleston’s competitive position has fallen off a cliff in recent years, and now that the economy has slowed, things are getting even worse.
Simply put, we had a tremendous opportunity staring us in the face, people.
And yet South Carolina’s leaders did what they always do in that situation … stared back at it with a not-so-bright look on their faces.
Last month, the S.C. State Ports Authority (SPA)’s biggest customer – Maersk Sealand – pulled out of Charleston, dealing a crippling blow to an already hobbled institution.
And while the SPA is frantically trying to get Maersk back, the woeful mismanagement of our state’s mostÂ competitive asset has finally begun to draw the criticism it deserves.
The breaking point appears to have been when SPA officials awarded themselves $708,000 worth of bonuses according to a “pre-determined performance incentive” program, which is curious seeing as the SPA operates as a state-sponsored monopoly.
Sort of like our Department of Education – which produces similarly sh*tty results.
Anyway, Senate President Glenn McConnell, for one, has had enough.
From the Charleston Post and Courier:
“Their business is down, they are in danger of losing their biggest account; that’s the record of the port at this hour,” McConnell said. “There is no increase in economic activity for the community, but they reward themselves for a profit on a state monopoly.”
Yeah … that pretty much sums it up, people.
McConnell says he’s filing legislation that would require any future port bonuses to be approved at a public meeting, which is good.
What would be great is a bill that required the SPA to move into the 21st Century by permitting public-private partnerships, which S.C. leaders have been repeatedly told must be implemented in order for our state’s port facilities to remain competitive.
We haven’t permitted them, though. And so we’re not competitive.
On multiple fronts, South Carolina needs to get its head out of its government-controlled arse.
The port is just the most obvious example of that.
We cannot afford to stare stupidly in the face of the next economic opportunity – whenever that may come along.